I'm curious to hear what
those of you who keep pastured chickens think about the importance of
friendliness. Our flock is changing drastically this year, from a
near monoculture of Golden Comets (with one White Cochin) to a diverse array of Black
Australorps, Cuckoo Marans, and Light Sussex. We
chose the first and last breed for their reputed foraging abilities
(and they seem to be living up to the hype) and the Marans for their
broodiness. Our plan is to eat our ancient Golden Comets in a
week or two and go into winter with a young flock ready to churn out
the eggs and raise their own babies next year.
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As you can tell, I've
been selecting breeds based on utility --- finding their own food and
deleting the need for an incubator --- but I have to admit I'll be a
bit sad to replace our ultra-friendly Golden Comets with a more
skittish flock. The Cuckoo Marans are extremely shy and even the Black Australorps keep their
distance, although the Cochin-raised rooster we'll be keeping may turn
the flock friendlier.
On the other hand, the
Golden Comet hybrid chicks (both of whom turned out to be cockerels and
went in the freezer) were almost too human-centered, and the Turken
cockerel (also slated for the freezer) is definitely less shy than his
Australorp peers. Our Light Sussex chicks seem to be the nicest
breed of the year, walking right under my hand as I put in fresh feed
rather than running away and even hopping up on top of the brooder to
say hi to me. The downside of Sussex is that they don't lay
nearly as well as those skittish Australorps.
On the one hand, less
personable chickens are easier to eat, and our flock is definitely dual
purpose. But there's something to be said for birds who will come
when they're called and even drink from their chicken waterer on command when curious
human visitors come calling.
For those of you who
raise working chickens on semi-serious homesteads, do you think
friendliness is an important trait for chickens? Would you buy
more chicken feed if it meant birds that came running every morning, or
stick to hard workers who scurry into the weeds at your approach?